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Big Changes In Store For Enterprise Wi-Fi Networks

Are you planning to sign a big purchase order for enterprise WLAN infrastructure anytime soon? You might want to hold off until new technology hits the market.

Expect the upcoming NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas to be a WLAN fest, with a number of vendors showing off innovative new infrastructure offerings. Look for significant WLAN products from start-ups AireSpace, Aruba Wireless Networks and Trapeze Networks, as well as from infrastructure veterans Extreme and Nortel.

The new systems emphasize scalability and enterprise-class performance monitoring. Many vendors are also introducing sophisticated site-survey tools that promise to significantly reduce the manual labor typically associated with site surveys. By modeling the network ahead of time on a computer, these systems provide designers with a workable, first-start deployment plan that merges business requirements with the complex physics of radio-signal propagation.

Beyond implementation planning, the new products greatly improve security, roaming and QoS (Quality of Service) capabilities. Security enhancements vary from product to product, and more robust authentication and privacy capabilities, including integrated wireless-aware VPN capabilities, are common. Subnet roaming support is provided as well, letting users transparently move between buildings without having to renew their DHCP leases. In some cases, the vendors are also supporting session persistence, which allows sessions to con tinue even if the mobile device should experience a momentary service interruption, as might occur if you are in an elevator.

Since all wireless traffic is funneled through multilayer switches, it becomes much more feasible to implement QoS policies in those devices. Granularity varies by product, but the combination of features sets the stage for new time-sensitive applications, including wireless voice over IP systems.